Pakistani could be deported as immigration case dropped
By Bruce Finley
A federal judge let the government drop all charges against a man
jailed for more than two years after the FBI targeted him as a
possible terrorist, clearing the way for Haroon Rashid to be deported
to the Pakistan- Afghanistan borderlands.
The decision Thursday in Denver by U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock
dismayed Rashid's U.S.-citizen relatives.
"Three years they've been dragging him. Now my family will be
destroyed. Why didn't they drop the charges before?" said Saima
Saima, his wife.
Attorneys for Rashid appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to try to
block the deportation.
And a national Muslim advocacy group launched a campaign to keep the
Pakistani immigrant in Denver with his four children. Federal
authorities also are prosecuting other members of Rashid's family,
raising questions about who would care for the children in the
"The government made a mistake. And now this family has to pay the
price? There's something un-American about that," said Imam Mahdi
Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom
The government's initial terrorism case against Rashid evaporated two
years ago, but prosecutors pursued lesser immigration charges. U.S.
Attorney Troy Eid had motioned for Babcock to dismiss those charges
for the purpose of having Rashid deported.
Babcock rejected an effort by defense attorney Jeff Pagliuca to force
federal prosecutors to take Rashid to trial. He ordered Rashid moved
from federal prison to the custody of immigration officials.
He'll be deported "when it is most convenient," U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok said.
Rashid, who came to the country legally, faces deportation because he
was convicted in 2003 of assaulting a gang member who hassled his
family. At the time, he was out on bond during the FBI investigation.
He received a 401-day sentence - most of it suspended - in the
assault case. His court-appointed attorney filed no appeal.
Eid said federal agents had first investigated Rashid as a possible
terrorist because "there was evidence" that, during a visit in 2001
and 2002 to his hometown of Quetta, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan
border, he made statements indicating he might try to obtain weapons
and fight U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. And now, because of the
assault conviction, Rashid "has no right to be in the United States.
Thus he will be deported," Eid said.
The appeal to the Supreme Court, filed Wednesday by attorney Andrew
Reid, argues that a conviction for misdemeanor assault does not meet
the aggravated-felony standard necessary under U.S. immigration law
to justify deportation.
This challenges a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in August
that a misdemeanor could count for deportation purposes.
That's "an excessive and abusive application of immigration law,"
Reid said. "The government is running rampant over the Constitution."
Members of the Denver Muslim community have set up a legal-defense
fund. Leaders of the Washington, D.C.-based Muslim American Society
plan a legal-advocacy campaign.
After charging 441 detainees in terrorism-related cases as part of
its war on terrorism, the government often has come up empty and is
using lesser charges to have detainees deported.
Federal authorities have stated openly that they'll use any tool
possible in prosecuting suspected terrorists.
Rashid's case drew national attention in 2002 when then-U.S. Attorney
General John Ashcroft cited it at a news conference among several
priority terrorism cases around the country.
Now the government's handing of the case "is really a tragedy for
these people. They should never have filed this case," Pagliuca said,
accusing Denver-based federal agents of "picking the most available
Pakistanis" in the charged atmosphere after Sept. 11, 2001.
Other members of Rashid's family still face immigration charges that
could land them in jail for up to five years. Prosecutors contend
they lied and conspired to bring a relative into the country
Outside the courthouse Thursday, Abdul Qayyum, 64, Rashid's father-in-
law, had tears in his eyes, holding one of Rashid's children. "Who is
going to take care of these kids? Me? I'm an old guy."
Family members "never had any problem with the laws in this country
until after 9/11," said cousin Irfan Kamran, 36. "And who's going to
suffer now? These kids. They are American kids. ... I pray for this
country, that the situation will be better for everyone."
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